The Manuscript Cometh

You know that feeling you get when your teacher is posting grades for papers or tests? How you brace yourself, take a deep breath and hold it like you’re doing the Ice Bucket Challenge?

It’s the same thing with books.  Imagine getting your corrected test or term paper back, only it’s 400 pages long.

My edits still come on paper. The UPS man (or woman) knocks on my door and hands me a big, fat package. There’s no mistaking it for anything else. It’s manuscript shaped.

MSS1

I bring it in and set it on the kitchen counter with a mixture of reverence and terror. What is my editor going to say? How much am I going to have to rewrite? How many stupid mistakes did I make?  The only way to know is to open it and find out.

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That’s a lot of paper. On top is a letter that summarizes all the things that are wrong with the book. Sometimes this is a long letter.

I usually read it standing right there by the counter. Then I hyperventilate. And then I go for a walk, or a coffee, or a something, and I don’t come back until I stop feeling like a loser for not writing a Perfect First Draft. (No one writes a perfect first draft, no matter what they tell you. There are always things that can be better. I have been tempted to go through Barnes and Noble with a pen and tweak the phrasing here and there in my books on the shelf.)

That big pile of paper sits on the kitchen counter—maybe a few hours, maybe a day, maybe a weekend—while I cogitate on how I’m going to fix what I need to fix. (Sometimes it’s something big like “This entire part in the museum here doesn’t make sense.” Sometimes it’s small but pervasive, like adding more explanation of how magic works or description of settings.)

Finally, the manuscript gets to move to the workspace. (In this case, the sofa.)

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I’m not quite ready to open the document on the computer and start haphazardly making changes. First I go through my editors’ (and agent’s) notes, page by page, wincing at the things I think I should have caught myself, or the things I thought I could get away with but didn’t, scribbling my own ideas, getting up every now and then to freak out. Like, “How I’m going to cut 25 pages out of the middle without losing any of my brilliant scenes?!” Or, my favorite: “OMG I have to come up with a logical reason for that to happen?” Or it’s close cousin,”It doesn’t seem like they know what’s going on there because I don’t know what’s going on.”

From there on… I won’t say it’s easy, but the analytical part of your brain kicks in and you flinch less. Two things safe my sanity right now: (1) I know I’m my own worst critic while working on a book, but (2) I can still fix things. I try and enjoy that while it lasts.


PS It’s not a Goodnight book.

PPS  It doesn’t come out for more than a year. But it’s going to be EPIC when it does.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably man's best friend, and inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx

“Outside of a dog, a book is probably man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

So, I hurt my finger. Not badly, just badly enough that typing became difficult for maybe a week, which meant I had an excuse to sit around and read all the things. Now I’m finally getting around to writing my book report(s). Have you read any of these? Tell me what you think about them in the comments.

Stuff I read:

Carrie, by Stephen King. I had never read this book because I knew the basic story and it sounded unpleasant. When I read King as a kid, it was strictly “horror” to me–slightly forbidden, definitely scary, but mentally in the realm of “popular novel.” Reading as an adult (and an author) I’m fascinated by how twisted and textured the novels are as well. If this were a different post, I could point out the elements of classic Tragedy (with a capital T) in Carrie, and a lot of King’s books. There’s a kind of Greek Chorus of observers, and Carrie is, like Lear and Hamlet and Antigone even, someone who evokes more pathos than empathy. (I’m trying to think what her fatal flaw would be. Tell me in the comments if you have an idea.)

I love when a book tells a great story AND I think about it months later and go “Ah ha. I see what you did there.” Which is not to say I don’t love a Dan Brown novel on an airplane, but that’s sort of like Fruit Loops. It tastes good as you gobble it up, but it’s not something you chew on and savor.

The Day She Died, by Catroina McPherson. This is an English author, and a random pick from the library’s new books shelf. A lucky pick, as it turns out. I was expecting more of a mystery triller, and it works on that level. But it’s also a sort of psychological piece as well. I’m continually on the lookout for mystery/thrillers like Gillian Flynn’s books, and this is kind of along those lines, though not as hard-edged. For me there was the mystery and suspense (Who should she trust? Who is lying? Is she even reliable as a narrator?) but it was also interesting how step with good intent can lead to another, and another, until you’re totally embroiled. I think I read this in one sitting.

I Want it That Way, by Ann Aguirre. This is the kick off title in Harlequin’s New Adult line, and here’s what’s cool about it. I have ambivalent feelings about the whole “New Adult” genre, because I loved books about college aged protagonists when I was in high school. But they used to simply be shelved on the fantasy/mystery/romance shelves. So what makes book “New Adult,” age or content? I don’t know.

However, I know a good book when I read it.  And I Want it that Way is a good read. You should know the characters have lots of sex without guilt or moralizing. The heroine is 20; she and the hero develop a good rapport/friendship before doing the deed. Nadia is in college and sees her hot neighbor and is all “What’s up with the brooding hot guy?” Turns out that what’s up is brooding hot guy is not a secret BDSM master, or a vampire CEO. He’s a single father at an age when he should be in college going to keg parties. But Nadia really really likes him. And he’s totally charmed by her, though he has to think about the effect a relationship would have on his son. So this is primarily a romance (I mentioned lots of sex, right?) but it also is about taking on adult responsibilities and knowing when you’re ready for that.

This is what I imagined when I hear the term “New Adult.” It’s basically a book for people who love YA, but also love racy romance. Which is a lot of people, because that’s how 50 shades happened. If New Adult is going to be a thing, then I hope there’s more of it that’s like this.

Have you read any of these? Share your opinion in the comments. And I would love a recommendation for what to read next. (Or add to my TBR shelf. Whichever.)

(Picture credit: jamelah e. on Flickr. CC License)

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da

There are two ways to go with this post:
1) OMG, this has been the craziest summer EVER.
2) Oh. My. Gawd. This has been the most tedious summer ever.

By ‘craziness’ of course I mean ‘chaos’ and, seriously, I’d gotten to the point about mid-July where crises became so routine that it reached the point of tedium.

“Oh, there’s water pouring out of the ceiling? I guess that’s this week’s thing.”

“Did you just use the word ‘cracked’ and ‘engine’ in the same sentence. Just making sure. How many zeros in that estimate again? That many? Okee doke, let me get back to you on that.”

So yes. A lot of personal and family stuff going on the last few months. It’s like kayaking through the rapids (or so I imagine), where it’s challenging but not impossible, but it’s hard to spare the concentration for things like, oh, say blog posts. Or remembering to… Well, thinking about anything other than avoiding smashing on rocks or tipping over or whatever.

What if someone came up with an app that bent time just enough so that you could send yourself a text or an email from the future?

“Hey, you know that thing you’re thinking about right now? Go ahead and do it. Trust me on this. Sincerely, A Friend.”

I suppose life wouldn’t be the same if we knew the future. At least our personal future. I’ve been exploring this concept with an author friend of mine, who’s (incredibly entertaining) time travel book comes out next year. It’s easy to say “Oh, I wish I’d done/not done X or Y.” Hindsight, blah blah blah. I’m not talking about obvious mistakes. If you have sound decision A and sound decision B, each may lead to the same place via different paths, or to really different places. So say you’re in place A and you don’t like it. If you sent a message to past you saying “Take path B,” who’s to day that place B wouldn’t be worse/harder/sadder than place A?

No one can, unless you can see down the road in two alternate universes.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Fringe on Netflix.

Netflix on the Apple TV now goes straight into the next episode of a series. So you’re like, “I’m going to turn this off after this episode, but then the teaser for the next episode starts before you can find the remote that slid between the sofa cussions, and then you’re hooked for another 43 minutes.*

Coming back from the theoretical and back to my own life (because this is my blog, and it’s all about me), I’m still kayaking, still avoiding rocks, still keeping my head above water (mostly).

Hey, sort of like most of the other people on the planet!

Life goes on, bra. La-la-la how life goes on.


*It’s not all Netflix and cupcakes around here. I’ve been working on a new paranormal romance that y’all are going to love! I’m having to do a lot or research about yacht racing, though. If anyone yacht races, email me, will you?)

Relative Time and Space

TARDISI suspect I live in the TARDIS.  Sometimes I’ll be home and working (or whatever) and lose all sense of time and relative dimension in space. Well, in time anyway. One minute it’s the middle of July, the next its…. Wait. It’s July now, right? RIGHT?

There were fireworks the other night, so it must be July. Or maybe it’s November and I’ve teleported to Britain for Guy Fawkes day.

You know it’s bad when you have to put “Get out of house one hour a day” on your to do list. Or your MOM says things like, “Don’t you want to go out and get some… well, anything?” So I’m trying to go out someplace where there are other people, even if all I do is sit at my table in a cafe and doing the same thing I would be doing at home–drinking too much coffee and pounding inspired drivel onto the keyboard. Or making Pinterest boards for my latest project. That’s work, right?

I’ve actually got a few outings coming up.

This Saturday (June 12, 10am-12pm; click here for details)  I’m teaching at the Yellow Rose RWA chapter in Colleyville. I’m teaching my “Pitch” class in person–the one that I teach online, but with more hand gestures and those weird expressions I make when I talk.

On August 9th at 3pm (click here for details) I’ll be at an author event/booksigning with Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre at the Firewheel Barnes and Noble in Garland, Texas. Rachel, Ann, and I will be doing a question and answer thing before signing, so it’s a great time to come and have fun with us.

Saturday August 16 from 1 – 4pm I’ll be at the Author Roundup at the Fort Worth Public Library (Central Branch). Here’s what the website says: Celebrate local, published authors of books for children and teens. Attend a panel discussion that will teach you to read critically and write confidently. Book signing to follow; authors’ books for sale at program. (All ages)

And the big one runs for 6 weeks. Go to the previous entry to find out more about the DFW Teen Writer’s Workshop, a writing workshop for, um, teens.

That’s what’s up. That and writing and stuff. Yay!

2014 DFW Teen Writers’ Workshop

Rosemary Clement-Moore:

Teen writers in the DFW area. Starts soon! Totally free! Great teachers. Whoo!

Originally posted on DFW Writers Workshop:

DFW Writers’ Workshop is very proud to announce the schedule for the 2014 Teen Writer’s Summer Workshop!  The best part of this announcement is….the workshop is completely FREE.

The scheduled events will take place at The Egg & I on Hwy. 26, from 12:30 to 2:30. Below are the dates and the list of speakers, who are all DFWWW members and traditionally published authors.  The sessions will include instruction and critique time.

t-shirt-2

Adult sizes small, medium, large and extra large are $10 each. XXL and XXXL are $12 each

With registration, teens will get a binder full of helpful advice. At the end of the workshop, an anthology will be created with their work. It will include a short story, excerpt, or poem that is polished during the six-week session. Each student will get a printed copy and may purchase as many additional copies as they’d like.  AND there’s…

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Otters, Chester Zoo, and my dog goes wild.

So I guess baby otters are a thing now, judging by my Twitter/tumblr feeds, though I have loved otters since way before they were Cool On The Internet. *pushes cute-nerdy-girl glasses on nose*  When I lived in Corpus Christi, I was a member of the Texas State Aquarium so I could go hang out and watch the otters whenever I wanted.

That’s not important. What is important is that you watch this video:

Oh. My. God. When I played this, Penny Dog went absolutely bonkers trying to find where that noise was coming from. So of course I had to move the laptop to another spot and play it again. And maybe a third time.

Anyway. This was filmed at the Chester Zoo in England. I do love a good zoo that takes the best care of the animals that they can. Obviously animals belong in their natural habitat, but when that habitat is disappearing, what are we going to do? What I like about the Chester Zoo is that they don’t limit their species preservation efforts to breeding programs. The zoo created the Act for Wildlife campaign, which works to preserve and restore natural habits all over the world. Even cooler, 100% of a donation goes to conservation efforts and none to administration. You can read about or donate to a specific species effort, or you can follow their blog to see how their projects are going.